Wednesday, August 6, 2014
"Don't run over my breakfast again"
I know that crows and ravens have a rich vocabulary. "Crows communicate their motivations, identities and report on local conditions each time they caw or croak," report John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell in their excellent book In the Company of Crows and Ravens. "But sounds made by crows are much more than simple signals that we occasionally intercept. Together they encode a complex language, steeped in cultural tradition."
Alas, like most humans I am often tone-deaf to what the crows are saying, noting little more than the difference between a caw and a trill, or between a long caw and a short one, and the multiple cries of assembly and dispersal.
This morning, I could not fail to notice the long, harsh caws of a lone crow perched in a linden tree across the street as I walked my dog back from the park. The crow sounded assertive, maybe territorial, but I did not know what he was saying until I started crossing the street. There, flattened next to the dotted yellow line, was a small gray-brown squirrel, freshly killed.
Sometimes messages are simple. The crow was saying, "Don't anyone dare to run over my breakfast again."
Drawing (c) Robert Moss